By Jacob Wilson/Garden Grove Journal
Up to 70 Westminster city employees are facing possible layoffs. But they’ll have to wait at least another week to learn their fate.
The Westminster City Council on Monday delayed its vote until at least next Wednesday’s council meeting (May 9). The council will meet to discuss the layoffs Friday (May 4) at 6 p.m. The study session is open to the public.
“The council as a whole should study this together,” Mayor Margie Rice said. “We need to know who’s going to do the jobs of the people we lay off.”
Rice also wants to look into alternatives besides layoffs to save money. Highly-paid employees should take pay cuts and no one should use city vehicles for personal transportation, including going to and from work, she said.
The layoffs are part of the city’s Fiscal Stabilization Plan. Westminster is looking at a $10.4 million general fund deficit for the upcoming fiscal year thanks to the dissolution of its Redevelopment Agency. The city has already made $3.9 million in “budget saving measures” according to a city staff report.
If the layoffs are approved, the city will save another $3.2 million, but will still face a general fund deficit of at least $3.3 million. Of the 70 employees, 32 are full time, representing 13 percent of full-time staff. Twenty-five percent of part-time staff face layoffs.
Another 10 employees may take early retirement. Severance pay and early retirement packages could cost the city more than $500,000.
Daryl Molta, a long-time Westminster resident, opposed the layoffs but blamed the city, not the state.
“This is not the way to go,” he said. “But it’s because of improper spending of monies in the Westminster Redevelopment Agency.”
No Westminster police officers will be laid off. But some Westminster Police Department support positions may be included in the cuts. Vacant officer positions will remain unfilled.
Reducing support staff pulls officers out of the field and could lead to longer response times, especially in non-emergency situations, said Lt. Mark Lauderback, president of the Westminster Police Officers Association.
“Non-sworn employees play a vital role,” Lauderback said. “The WPD has already been making reductions and we’re near our breaking point.”
Sandra McClure, owner of a Westminster-based Baskin Robbins, sided with Lauderback.
“Don’t risk public safety to balance the budget,” she said.
Reducing city staff could also hurt local businesses by slowing down the processes for licenses and permits.
“Delays for businesses could cost the city revenue,” McClure said.